Packing Recap (pictured above with my two green bags and Travis’ one.)
After 149 days of traveling I’m finally returning to Nueva York. And after wearing the same four shirts and one pair of pants for five freaking months you can be certain I plan to burn every article of clothing in my pack.
The contents of my bag are a hell of a lot different from when I started so here’s what I’ve learned about packing for long trips. Some of the stuff in the MINUS category was deliberately left behind, other things were lost, stolen, or simply fell apart. The turning point was when I met up with Ben in Cartagena—he brought me some new clothing and took back my “annex bag” of souvenirs for others. No way I was carrying two hammocks around for another 2 months.
My Pack, Day One
Weight: 13 Kilos
Contents: 20 articles of clothing (yet no cold weather clothes!), a towel, sleep sack, laundry bag, first aid kit, five books (including the massive lonely planet SA), a ton of magazines, toiletries, giant bottles of sunscreen, hiking shoes, casual shoes, 1 pair flip flops, hairdryer (wtf), and electronics (lappy, ipod, cam).
My Pack, Halfway Through (Circa de Bolivia)
Weight: 15 Kilos
Above PLUS 2 sweaters 2 tank tops, a scarf, two hats, two purses, thick socks, winter coat, jewelry, two watches, an extra tote bag for said purchases
MINUS two books, hairdryer, dress, jeans, toiletries and makeup, sleep sack, laundry bag
My Pack, Day 149
Weight: 17.9 kilos (!!!)
Above PLUS three pairs boots (I know), one pair of sandals, four books, one jacket, 4 shirts, 1 pair pants, 1 pair tights, more jewelry, film camera
MINUS other pair pants, other pair tights, flip flops (they fell apart), sunscreen, watches, shorts, several tank tops, most toiletries, Lonely planet, extra tote, winter clothing, cardigan, Toms shoes (they fell apart)
Things I’m glad I packed:
- Basically, the best things I packed were a synthetic black camisole, black cardigan, and black yoga pants. They don’t show stains or fall apart, the cami and cardi weren’t too casual for going out, and the yoga pants were perfect for sleeping and hiking. Most importantly, since they’re basically polyester, they dried really quickly when I washed ‘em in hostel sinks.
- Also I’m happy I packed the hiking shoes even though I only wear ‘em every month or so, and they take up tons of space in my bag, and they smell like crap. For the big hikes, my Toms or little tennies just wouldn’t have cut it.
- I’m glad we didn’t rip apart our Lonely Planet as originally planned because we ended up going to four different countries not in the initial route. We kinda needed the Bolivia section, for example.
- Important item: headlamp—it was basically required on all of the hikes and helpful for rummaging through your shit in a dark hostel dorm. Also of utmost importance: my tiny little extra absorbent towel. By now it looks disgustingly musty (“suspicious” is the word one friend used) but it was important since a lot of hostels don’t supply towels.
- Also, I had a packet of those facewash wipe things (like baby wipes but for your face not your butt) which were really nice for long bus rides.
Things I wish I had packed:
- Didn’t bring any “going out” clothing. In New York I think I dress pretty casually for hitting the bars (and I don’t really do clubs). But that doesn’t really translate everywhere in the world. Apparently, its frowned upon to show up to a club, on any continent, in flip flops and a cotton tank top. The flat black riding boots and “fancy tank tops” I bought in Brazil and Argentina were helpful for that. In the same vein, I wish I had packed a purse or slightly less backpacker-y day pack. It’s not really cool to tramp around a city carrying an army green hiking backpack (not to mention it screams “TARGET”), and while I didn’t mind carrying my money in my bra, I’m SO ready for that to end. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a bill stuck to the side of me, or trying to creep out of my shirt. Not to mention the nail salon incident.
- I wish I had gone the route Travis did with organization in his bag. I made myself 2 stuff sacks for my clothes, which worked okay, sometimes, depending on what was clean/dirty wet/dry etc., but he used these massive clear ziplock baggies which fit into his pack well, allowed him to see the contents and easily sort dirty/clean. I usually just stuffed dirty clothes into the bag wherever I could fit them, which translated to a trail of dirty socks and random things scattering behind me like Hansel and Gretel.
Things I really didn’t need:
- My Toms were super lightweight and comfy but they started falling apart after like a month. And they were too casual to wear at night time and too light to wear with socks/in the cold. A pair of flats would have been better. The Toms got so disgusting I was told by traveling mates that they didn’t want to be seen with someone wearing homeless person shoes.
- I never once used (unfortunately for the environment) my reusable tote bag because I never carried it around with me. We used a lot of plastic bags to carry valuables to throw off potential muggers.
- Also, rain jacket, sleep sack, hairdryer.
- Also, five books. Was better off with just one and hitting up book exchanges.
- Wicking underwear. They were weird and not comfortable. I’m not sure why Travis and I had the idea that we would really need these.
- Also, the jeans, dress, and button up shirt. They were of questionable quality and all fell apart within a month.
So that’s the story of my stuff. I could barely keep track of it all; God help me when I emancipate the contents of my storage unit in New York. I’m tempted to throw a match in and forget all that crap ever existed.